"IT'S MY STORY" --Brussels, Belgium
Quiet, quiet but oh so sad. Larry John McNally is a ghost with dreams of flesh and blood. As a performer he is caught in a limbo. One of the undead, McNally is largely unknown, except among some of the world's best singers who have covered his songs. But where do you go when people like Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt and Chaka Khan have invested their not inconsiderable personas into your work?
It takes a brave man to get up and try to claim back what is an intimate part of himself. Ask Prince. Nothing Compares to You is lost to him forever since Sinead O'Conner gave it her treatment. Who remembers the guy who wrote Hey Joe after Hendrix electrified it?
McNally probably does. At his gig at The AB-Belle Vue Club recently, he presented tracks from his album Vibrolux. This is raw McNally, an album of ideas dropped onto tape with little concern for marketability. It sounds unmixed. The tempo is mid. The volume is mid. The man himself gives off an air of mid-ness that is plain disturbing.
It would be easy to pan him as another line of pained writers. But McNally strikes chords, almost despite himself. Love Is a Ruthless Thing is a simple but neat thought. Nobody's Girl (covered by Bonnie Raitt) is appealing. Mixed Blood would be a pathetic boyish fantasy if it wasn't for the reference to his mother.
The music is lightly covered in shades of folksy blues, with the occsional soaring electrified guitar. There's no doubt about it, the boy can write. But can he sing? Although the sparse instrumentation is probably intended to throw the spotlight on his tales, it also highlights the unbearable lightness of his voice. How can such big, deep emotions be portrayed with such thin singing? With a single falsetto note Many Strange & Far Away Things is rendered painful, which is a shame.
Kate Jacobs had the job of opening for McNally. She also belongs to the story-telling tradition of singer-songwriters, but her stories lack the drama to reach out to an audience. I might be alone in thnking this, as she proved quite popular with the small crowd.